A BOLD plan that could see a village sacrifice its play area to build much-needed shops and a medical centre has been revealed in a bid by the parish council to beat housing developers at their own game.
Councillors admit the proposals for the future of Middleton St George will be controversial, but said they hope people will agree with the plan once they realise the benefits it could bring.
The draft proposals for the Middleton St George development plan, a legally binding document outlining accepted development in the village up to 2025, look to provide the housing, shops and facilities needed in the area, while also preventing large-scale developments that add houses without improving the village.
A drop-in event where residents can hear more details of the proposals will be held on Saturday, July 12.
The proposals put forward by the parish council include:
• Using the playing field, off Station Road, to create a Neighbourhood Hub - a parade of single-storey shops, a medical centre with integrated pharmacy, parking and a play area;
• Allowing housing, in particular starter homes and bungalows for older people, to be built on unused land off Yarm Road, backing on to the railway line;
• Revitalising the recreational facilities in the Water Park to make it a place for people of all ages to spend time relaxing and exercising.
Councillor Doris Jones, chairwoman of the parish council, admitted that she had been horrified when the proposals to build on the play area had first been suggested.
But she added: “We appreciate the idea of using the play park to build on will be controversial but it’s not very well used because it gets pretty muddy and the equipment is old.
“By using that land for development, we can create better facilities for the people that live here.
“We don’t know how many shops yet or what they will include – we want people to come along to the consultation and tell us what they want to see. If they don’t want shops there, they can tell us and come up with an alternative.”
The parish council has been working on the neighbourhood plan for months after becoming concerned about the number of speculative planning applications for large housing estates in the village.
The plan, which must pass a local referendum, allows the village to outline permitted development for the coming years.
There is no option to reject development outright and the parish council has decided to make its own proposals that improve the village for its existing residents, rather than rely on the suggestions of outsiders looking to develop land for financial gain.
Cllr Jones added: “We have become a small town of 5,000 people but we still have facilities for a small village.
“People told us that the village has lost its centre, has no parking, shops or services.
“The GPs are on board for the new medical centre and it would allow them to offer many more services than they currently do.
“It’s very adventurous. We would give up an acre of land but we would gain so much more.”
Glen McGill, a planning consultant working with the parish council, said: “We’ve based the strategy on what people told us in the consultation – we’ve not come up with them out of thin air.
“We won’t please everybody but these developments will allow us to do so much more to improve the village.”
The drop-in session to discuss the proposals will take place between 10.30am and 3.30pm at St George's Primary School and will feature sketches and maps of the proposals.
Members of the parish council and the planning consultants will be available to answer questions.
For more details visit MSGplan.org.uk or search for ‘Residents against the over-development of Middleton St George’ on Facebook.